Lolita
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FAQ for
Lolita (1962) More at IMDbPro »

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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Lolita can be found here.

What is 'Lolita' about?

While renting a room for the summer in Ramsdale, New Hampshire before taking up his position at a university in Beardsley, Ohio, divorced, middle-aged college professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason), becomes obsessed with teenage nymphet Dolores 'Lolita' Haze (Sue Lyon), the daughter of his landlady Charlotte (Shelley Winters), whom he marries just to be near Lolita. When the unthinkable happens and Charlotte is struck and killed by a car, Humbert and his precocious 'stepdaughter' move to Beardsley together where they engage in a two-year sexual relationship. Meanwhile, they are being watched and followed by playwright Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers), who has reasons of his own for being interested in Lolita.

Yes. Lolita is a 1955 novel by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov [1899-1977]. The screenplay is credited to Nabokov and director Stanley Kubrick. It is also rumored that Kubrick's frequent collaborator, James Harris, had a hand in rewriting the script. Another movie re-adaptation of the novel, also titled Lolita, was released in 1997.

The general definition for "nymphet" is that of a sexually-attractive young woman, usually in early puberty. The term was actually coined by Nabokov for Lolita. Nabokov describes nymphets as being "deadly little demons" with feline features and thin, downy limbs. Nymphets are not always the type of girls a normal man would consider the prettiest, but they have a demonic ability to attract men much older than themselves. Coincidentally, Nabokov also coined the term "faunlet" to describe the male counterpart of a nymphet. The terms "nymphet" and "faunlet" were derived from the nymphs and fauns (satyrs) of classical mythology.

Lolita's given name in both the movie and the novel is Dolores Haze. The name Dolores has several diminutives (nicknames), e.g., Dolly, Lolly, Lo, Lola, and Lolita ("little Lola"). Thanks to Nabokov's novel and this movie, "Lolita" has come to be a general term for a sexually-precocious young girl (a lolita), but it wasn't always that way. It's been said that Nabokov liked the name Lolita because of the alliteration of the repeated "L" sound.

No specific age was mentioned in the movie (for censorship reasons). In the novel, Lolita was 12 years old. Sue Lyon, who plays Lolita in the film, was 14 years old at the time.

It's a clip from the Hammer Studios' production The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) has just returned to his laboratory where he left the Monster (Christopher Lee) waiting to be brought to life. A freak lightning bolt accidentally activates the electrical apparatus and accomplishes the task. The Monster has just gotten out of its glass tank and is standing uncertainly when it senses Frankenstein's presence and tears away the bandages concealing its face. It attacks him, seemingly without provocation, and nearly strangles its creator, before being knocked unconscious by Frankenstein's former mentor, now his assistant.

Because the movie didn't mention the name of the game, viewers have interpreted it in different ways. Some liken it to "playing doctor" whereas others interpret it to mean "kissing" or "sex" of some sort, e.g., finger-play, oral, or intercourse. The novel makes it clear that the "game" involved sex and went on for about two years.

That was Vivian Darkbloom (Marianne Stone). She was a character in the novel who was only mentioned by name as an assistant of Clare Quilty. Notice that "Vivian Darkbloom" is also an anagram of "Vladimir Nabokov."

Before, although the movie doesn't explain it very well. Quilty had an uncle who was not only the Hazes' family dentist but was also one of their neighbors. Quilty would sometimes visit his uncle and was once a guest speaker at the women's club to which Charlotte belonged. On one occasion, Charlotte brought Lolita with her to hear Quilty speak. Quilty noticed Lolita immediately and not only sat her on his lap but also kissed her. Quilty had hopes of having Lolita as a future star in one of his porn movies before Humbert ever arrived on the scene. Their sexual relationship began when Quilty cast Lolita in his play. When she was supposed to be at rehearsals, Lolita was with Quilty much of the time. They then planned out her "escape" from Humbert together.

How does the movie end?

Three years after Lolita leaves the hospital and disappears, Humbert gets a note from her asking for money. Lolita reveals that she has gotten married and pregnant and that she and her husband Richard (Gary Cockrell) are having trouble making ends meet. A week later, Humbert shows up at their house. He offers Lolita money but only if she will tell him who took her away from the hospital. Lolita finally admits that it was Clare Quilty, the only man she ever really loved. In fact, it was Quilty who posed as the school psychologist, Quilty who wanted Lolita to star in his play, Quilty who followed their car for three days, and Quilty who threatened Humbert on the telephone. After she moved to New Mexico with Quilty, she found that she couldn't tolerate his eccentric friends and refused to act in the "art" movie that they were making, so Quilty kicked her out. Humbert then begs the very pregnant Lolita to leave her husband and come away with him, but Lolita refuses. Humbert breaks down in tears, gives Lolita the money she asked for with no strings attached, and leaves. The final scene ends as the movie began...with Humbert entering Quilty's house, gunning for him. An epilogue then appears, explaining that Humbert died of a coronary thrombosis while awaiting trial for the murder of Clare Quilty.

Coronary thrombosis is a medical term for a heart attack. Blood and oxygen are supplied to the beating heart muscle through three major coronary arteries. If one or more of the arteries becomes blocked, the blood flow will be interrupted and the heart muscle will stop working. Some people think that Humbert's death from a heart attack was a clever way of saying that he died of a broken heart.

Like all adaptations, much is lost in the transfer of Lolita from novel to film. Those who have both seen the movie and read the novel frequently point to the humor and wordplay that exist in the novel but are lost in the movie. Since the novel is written in first person but the film is not, much of the insight into Humbert Humbert's character is absent. For example, the film omits the reason given for Humbert's fascination with "nymphets", that is, the death of his first love, Annabel Leigh, when he was 14. Lolita is also much changed. The actress who plays her, Sue Lyon is conventionally attractive, whereas in the book, Humbert explains that "nymphets" are of a different standard of beauty. Nabokov's Lolita had short chestnut-brown hair in a bob; it was changed to long blonde hair in the film. Explicit sex scenes were also removed in the face of strong movie censorship. Much of the illicit relationship between Lolita and her "stepfather" is told only in innuendo in the movie.

Viewers who have seen Lolita have mentioned similar movies in which nymphets, that is, young teenage girls coming of age, find that they attract or are attracted to older men. For example, in The Night of the Iguana (1964) a nymphet (again played by Sue Lyon) attempts to seduce a defrocked priest. In The Crush (1993), a 14-year old attempts to seduce a journalist. In Poison Ivy (1992), a teenage girl seduces her friend's father. A young girl develops a crush on her high school counselor in Wild Things (1998), and he is accused of rape. Teenage girls coming of age and learning the difference between sex and love are also featured in Somersault (2004), Nothing Is Private (2007), An Education (2009), and The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005). In American Beauty (1999), it is a middle-aged man who develops an infatuation with his daughter's high school friend.

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